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sector_ico_Environment_trans Environment

Bacterial Source Tracking to improve the health of two urban streams in Vernon, B.C.

  • Project Leaders: Asit Mazumder, Mark Dowhaniuk
  • Institutions: University of Victoria (UVic)
  • Budget: $198000
  • Program/Competition: User Partnership Program
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome British Columbia
  • Fiscal Year: 2016
  • Status: Closed

The City of Vernon is challenged by degradation of its urban streams due to fecal contamination of surface water used for drinking and recreation. Current testing practices, such as basic E. coli counts – an indicator for presence of enteric pathogens – have limitations in establishing baseline conditions for water quality and source tracking. Genomics has emerged as a promising tool towards effective water quality management to mitigate public health risks due to waterborne diseases, and the resulting economic burden.

To bring genomics into practice, the City of Vernon and Dr. Asit Mazumder from the University of Victoria (UVic) used DNA fingerprinting for source tracking of E. coli in two urban streams – Vernon Creek and BX Creek. The team isolated E. coli in water samples collected from seven different sites and analyzed the DNA using a highly discriminating yet economical fingerprinting technique. The results revealed deer, bear, and avian sources as the largest contributors of contamination at the seven sites. Using the method, the team developed a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for interpretation of genomic data from water samples to determine level and sources of the contamination.

Working with Western Water Associates Ltd. (WWAL), the company contracted to collect water samples for both quality and Bacterial Source Tracking analyses, the project team integrated the genomic data with the stream health data and created an online database ( Managed by WWAL, the database maps urban, agricultural and wildlife sources of bacterial indicator pollution in Vernon, including fingerprints for baseline water quality in the two urban creeks during various weather conditions and fecal pollution levels and sources.

The City of Vernon benefited greatly by utilizing this technology for improving urban stream health and effective planning for stormwater infrastructure. The site- and species- specific stormwater quality data can be applied to other rural and urban streams. Many communities in BC are in the development stages for Integrated Stormwater Management Plans for watersheds in their jurisdictions. They will be able to use the tools developed in this project to improve stream health and stormwater quality.